Interview for Values fit, not Cultural alignment

Do you interview for cultural fit? I did. And I was wrong.

I’ve interviewed well over 1000 people. As the person responsible for my team (whether in my own company, on the board of another, or as a senior manager post-acquisition), I was the “culture” part of the interview for a long time. What became apparent to me as the team grew was that culture was becoming broader, but what remained steady was our set of values.

Using culture as a recruitment criterion is hard. It works well to EXCLUDE those that would definitely not fit, but is really challenging to use as a positive criterion with any certainty.

It’s also the wrong thing to do.

Your work culture is a result of many things. Your values (the real ones, not the ones that plaster your walls) are the biggest factor. But the personalities of those in your team are another. You should choose based on the former. Choose based on the latter at your peril – toxicity aside, variety of personalities will be a strength to your team.

So change the cultural-fit part of your recruitment process to values-alignment. If “can-do” is a key value, look for evidence of that. If innovation is more important than dotting Is and crossing Ts, then look for evidence of that.

Get the values part right, and your culture is far more likely to head where you’d like it to go.

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